– The Daily Fix: BJP’s NRC threats could endanger census and data collection by all Indian agencies

Panic related to citizenship means even routine data collection by government agencies is now in peril.

Shoaib Daniyal

Op/Ed, 13 February 2020. As part of its Hindutva ideology, the Bharatiya Janata Party has energetically pushed two polices that seek to fundamentally change the nature of Indian citizenship. The party has repeatedly announced that it will institute a National Register of Citizens, an unprecedented measure that seeks to get every citizen to prove their citizenship.

In December, it also passed the Citizenship Amendment Act, which for the first time, brings in a religious element to India’s citizenship law.

Even more troublingly, the party has reiterated that the two initiatives are linked. Union Home Minister Amit Shah has implied on several occasions that with the Citizenship Amendment Act being implemented before the National Register of Citizens, only Muslims will have to prove their citizenship.

The Union government has also begun work on the National Population Register, the first step on the road to an NRC.

This attempt to institute a communal citizenship verification drive has set off alarm bells across India. Many Muslims now fear any attempt at data collection, seeing in it a drive towards an NRC. The result of this panic has been a widespread refusal to submit data to any agency suspected of being sent on behalf of the Indian state.

In just one district of West Bengal, for example, at least six incidents of NGO worker being accosted based on rumours that they were collecting NPR data have emerged after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed in December.

In another instance in Uttar Pradesh, state government employees collecting health data were held hostage by a mob. In Rajasthan, two women collecting data for the Economic Census were attacked on suspicion of collecting NPR data. In Kerala, a state government official conducting an agricultural census was forced to call the police after a mob accosted him.

This panic has meant that multiple state government attempts at data collection as well as the Union government’s National Sample Survey are now facing enormous roadblocks. A report found that for the first time in 148 years, the Census is also in danger, given that door-to-door data collection for the NPR and Census are scheduled to be conducted simultaneously.

Pronab Sen, former Chief Statistician of India and head of the Modi’s government’s Standing Committee on Economic Statistics explained how dire the situation would be if the Census were to collapse:

“So, you may well have a situation where you are unable to do the Census properly and if the Census is not done properly, then for the next 10 years, no household survey would be reliable because all household surveys rely on the Census as the frame.”

Without data, India will be unable to frame developmental policies. Even more alarmingly, no country can afford a situation where widespread panic means even a government act as simple as a survey is not possible.

The cause for this panic is clear: the BJP’s attempts to force through an NRC has set off an destabilising chain of events. The party must now immediately fix the problem it has created.

Given that the National Popular Register is the first step to the National Register of Citizens, two states, West Bengal and Kerala, have already suspended it. However, this is not enough. Both states are still seeing continuous public alarm over the NPR.

It is clear that the Modi government itself needs to suspend the National Population Register and repeal the 2003 Citizenship Rules, which create the legal framework for a National Register of Citizens.

World Sikh News – Dal Khalsa appeals to UN to protect minorities in India

Published 5 days ago 26/12/2019

Alleging that the Indian government under Narendra Modi continues its march against minorities and nationalities, Dal Khalsa has reached out to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva narrating the volatile developments that spell an anarchic situation for religious minorities in India.

From the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir to India’s Supreme Court’s “political” verdict on Babri Masjid in the Ayodhya dispute to the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act by the Indian parliament everything is being played out in India’s march to make India a professedly Hindu country, reads the memorandum submitted to the High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.

Party secretary for human rights Pritpal Singh Switzerland met the representative of the High Commissioner at the UN­HCHR office in Geneva and apprised him of the increasingly difficult and dangerous times for all minorities and nationalities, who want to stand up for the fundamental rights of oppressed people.

Reiterating that Sikhs as geographical neighbours of Kashmir and as people who endorse the UN Charter on Human Rights, consider it their sacred duty to stand up against repression and oppression everywhere.

Pritpal Singh told the UN officials that how the government of India denied his party and other groups the right to protest against gross violations of rights of the Kashmiri people.

The Indian state barred around 200 activists associated with Dal Khalsa and Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) from entering Jammu and Kashmir at the Madhopur-Kathua interstate border on 9 December on flimsy grounds. The activists were on their way to observe World Human Rights Day at Lal Chowk, Srinagar.

Complaining about the muted response of the international community and the United Nations Security Council, which has been making soft recommendations to the perpetrator state, the Dal Khalsa leader Pritpal Singh told the UN representative that the stoppage of Sikh leaders and human rights activists by the government from entering Jammu and Kashmir was a loud declaration by the Indian state that those who want to observe Human Rights Day for the people of Kashmir have no right to do so.

Urging the UN to make India answerable for this to the world community, the Dal Khalsa leader narrated the outcry of people across the spectrum on the CAA.

Unquestionably, there are double standards for the government of India vis-à-vis the majority community and the Muslims, not only in Kashmir but in the whole of India. It is apparent that the Modi government was deliberately pushing the people to a point of no return and this has dangerus portents for South Asia.

It is reliably learnt that the Sikh leader Pritpal Singh had a patient hearing in the UN office and more so the officials were seized with the developing unrest across India. Speaking to WSN, Dal Khalsa spokesperson Kanwar Pal Singh said its time for UN intervention as the silence of the international community leadership was hurting the relevance of the UN Human Rights Charter.

Dal Khalsa appeals to UN to protect minorities in India

The American Spectator – Bad news out of India

A struggling economy, religious tensions, questionable alliances – Modi has a troubling situation on his hands.

Frank Schell

Op/Ed, 23 December 2019. In recent days, India has seen much violent protest and communal unrest in view of reaction to the provisions of the Citizenship Amendment Act adopted on December 11 by its Parliament.

Designed to offer citizenship for religious minorities fleeing persecution in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, the Act seeks to benefit Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Hindu, Parsi, and Sikh immigrants, to the exclusion of Muslims.

Throughout India’s history, and following Arab migrations after the death of the Prophet in 632 AD, there have been various Muslim empires established in South Asia, Ghaznavids, Turks, Afghans and then the Mughals in 1526. Hindu–Muslim unrest, or communalism as it is known, has had deadly consequences over the years since partition in 1947.

India has about 200 million Muslims, which represent 14 percent of its population. The Hindu–Muslim divide is a major fault line in the country, and it can be potentially exploited by Al-Qaeda, as well as by ISIS, which earlier this year declared it had established a “province” in Jammu and Kashmir, and by other terrorist cells and jihadists operating on Indian soil.

The Hindustan Times, one of the country’s most respected journals, reports that protests occurred in 56 cities of 24 states and Union Territories on December 19.

Further, the government of India has invoked legal provisions to limit public assembly, and there were reports of telecommunications and internet suspension. Thousands are reported to have been detained, and there has been a rising death toll.

This Act of Parliament follows tensions created when the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir having a Muslim majority was brought under direct rule of New Delhi in August, ending its status of autonomy regarding internal affairs granted by the Constitution adopted in 1949.

While there was outcry at the time, it largely subsided and this may have given impetus to creating further restrictions of the Act.

In addition, a November ruling by the Supreme Court of India declared an ancient site disputed between Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, to belong to a Hindu trust, with land also given to Muslims for the construction of a mosque.

The site is said to be the birthplace or Rama or Ramachandra, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the hero of one of India’s major epics. The Supreme Court is known for its probity and independence, but Ayodhya is as much a national security issue as a legal and religious one.

The government of India has affirmed that there is no discrimination against Muslims. Quoted in the December 20 edition of the Wall Street Journal, India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah, indicated that recent actions of the government are designed to end the type of “appeasement” that has prevented Jammu and Kashmir from completely integrating into the Indian Union.

This internal conflict comes at a time when the India economy is performing at an all-time low in recent memory. For years, the country reported high-single-digit GDP increases, but now the rate is running at 4.5 percent, following general decline.

While this may sound attractive to industrial nations, it is insufficient to absorb the World Bank’s estimated need for 8.1 million new non-agricultural jobs every year, although some estimates are considerably higher.

In particular, farm income in India is depressed for a variety of well-known factors, ranging from industrialization, fragmentation of holdings, and depleted aquifers, and a general loss of national focus.

Agriculture is under-performing and needs a transformation like that achieved decades ago during the Green Revolution. The sector employs 47 percent of the work force but represents 15 percent of GDP by one recent estimate from the CIA World FactBook.

As I have written for Gateway House of Mumbai, a leading Indian think tank, India offers a platform for enhanced governance and leadership for genetically modified seeds, a controversial issue both there and in the West. Nonetheless this is seen by proponents as an important means of benefiting Indian agriculture.

Doubtless morale is now low in India, a principal American ally viewed, among other things, as capable of raising the cost of Chinese aggression. India’s recent announcement that it will procure the sophisticated S-400 Russian air defense system under a $5 billion contract is of concern to the Trump administration, which has not yet decided whether to impose sanctions.

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is masterful as a communicator and at branding his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as himself.

He is also known to be supportive of free markets and to be skilled at implementation of policy, dating to his days as chief minister of the western state of Gujarat. The prime minister will need his communication skills and his economic and management acumen to deliver some good news.

Frank Schell is a business strategy consultant and former senior vice president of the First National Bank of Chicago. He was a lecturer at the Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago, and is a contributor of opinion pieces to various journals.

Bad News Out of India

The Hindustan Times – Foreign Minister S Jaishankar explains why he cancelled meeting with US lawmakers

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar did not mince words at a news briefing on Thursday when asked about Jayapal’s resolution and whether he wanted to meet her to change her mind; this was before reports of the cancelled meeting.

Yashwant Raj

Washington DC – USA, 20 December 2019, 2019. External affairs minister S Jaishankar is understood to have backed out of a meeting with a group of USA lawmakers on the sidelines of the 2+2 meeting on Wednesday as Indian officials feared it could be used by known critics of India to “harangue” the minister on Jammu and Kashmir instead of engaging with him with an open mind.

Jaishankar, an old hand at relations with the USA as a former ambassador and one of few Indian officials familiar with the contours of American power structure, was scheduled to meet with the leadership of the foreign affairs committees of the House of Representatives and of the Senate on Wednesday after the 2+2 meeting in an outreach to discuss recent developments in India that have caused some concern on Capitol Hill, home to USA congress.

He met with Senate foreign affairs committee leaders, Chairman Jim Risch (Republican) and Ranking Member Robert Menendez (Democrat) and gave his perspective on Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at the request of the lawmakers, offering a perspective, he told reporters later, that was more truthful and comprehensive than what they had gathered from published reports.

According to congressional sources the minister faced some sharp questioning but he stayed and answered them.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has defended his decision to cancel a meeting with US lawmakers after they declined to exclude Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal from the team.

The meeting with the House foreign affairs committee, however, was called off because Indian officials believed “they deliberately changed the rules of the game” from meeting the committee and its leadership to meeting the sponsor of a bill critical of the restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir after the change in its constitutional status by the August 5 abrogation of Article 370.

Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic lawmaker of Indian descent, has introduced a bill that urges India to remove the restrictions and release political detainees. Rashida Tlaib, another Democratic lawmaker, has also moved a resolution seeking the same in language that’s been described as more vitriolic.

Indians felt the meeting with the House foreign affairs committee leadership, Chairman Eliot Engel (a Democrat) and Micael McCaul (a Republican), would be used by Jayapal and Tlaib, neither of whom was a member of the committee but were invited to attend (it was not immediately clear if both Jayapal ad Tlaib had been invited to attend, or just Jayapal), to “harangue” the minister.

The Indians were “open to meeting those who are open minded and objective but not those who are not”.

Minister Jaishankar himself did not mince words at a news briefing on Thursday when asked about Jayapal’s resolution and whether he wanted to meet her to change her mind; this was before reports of the cancelled meeting.

“I am aware of that draft resolution (the one introduced by Jayapal recently) (and) I don’t think it’s a fair understanding of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir or a fair characterisation of what the government of India is doing,” he said.

And, he added, “I have no interest in meeting her. I have an interest in meeting people who are objective and (are) open to discussion but not people who have already made up their minds.”

Jayapal saw the cancellation of the meeting as evidence of the Indian government’s reluctance to see the other side. “This only furthers the idea that the Indian government isn’t willing to listen to any dissent at all,” she told the Washington Post, which first ran the story about Indians cancelling Jaishankar’s meeting with the House committee over Jayapal.

“The seriousness of this moment should’ve been a reason for a conversation, not dictating who’s in the meeting, which seems very petty,” she added.

Congressional sources confirmed the Post story and defended the decision to invite Jayapal to the briefing meant for the leadership of the committee. “You cannot force us to dis-invite people invited by us to the briefing,” said a person familiar with the developments.

The Print – Dear Amit Shah, stop distorting history to explain your failures today: Shashi Tharoor

Home Minister Amit Shah saying new citizenship law was necessary because Congress divided India on religious grounds shows he learned nothing in history class.

Shashi Tharoor

New Delhi – India, 17 December 2019. The protests erupting over the Citizenship Amendment Act in the Jamia Millia Islamia University, across the northeast and elsewhere in India is the direct fallout of the BJP’s malicious reading of India’s history and plan to make the country a Hindutva version of Pakistan.

But the immediate crisis should not obscure the fundamentals. We are now accustomed, alas, in our irremediably tedious political controversies, to seeing history used as cannon fodder by the Bharatiya Janata Party. Given that the BJP is determined to drag us back to the 16th century, I suppose we should be grateful that currently, it is restricting itself to the 20th century.

But Home Minister Amit Shah’s astonishing assertion in Parliament, in a response to me, that the Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), now a law, was necessary only because the Congress had divided India on religious grounds in 1947, is such a breathtaking piece of effrontery that it deserves a response.

My initial reaction was that Amit Shah must not have been paying attention in school during history class: had he never heard of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the “two-nation theory”, or the Muslim League’s Pakistan Resolution of 1940?

Could he seriously believe that Partition wasn’t the demand of the League, voted for by a significant plurality of India’s Muslims in 1946?

Did he actually consider that Mahatma Gandhi’s Indian National Congress, the flag-bearer for six decades of a united nationalist movement, a party that had been led multiple times by Muslims and actually served under a Muslim president (Maulana Azad) in the crucial period from 1940 to 1945, wished to divide India on religious lines?

But then, I also came to realise that it didn’t really matter what Amit Shah believed: it only mattered that he had said it. And in saying it, the BJP, hero-worshippers of V D Savarkar who first propounded the two-nation theory as president of the Hindu Mahasabha before Jinnah seized upon the same idea, had continued its tiresome political tactic of ascribing to the Congress party responsibility for any error, tragedy or event that had cast a blight upon India. Partition was bad, ergo blame it on the Congress.

Ironically enough, Amit Shah found unlikely allies in the most improbable place, across the border , where my denunciation of his ruling BJP for ushering in a Hindutva version of Pakistan in India was fiercely condemned by Pakistani liberals. Asad Rahim Khan in Dawn and Yasser Latif Hamdani in ThePrint both criticised me by name for venturing to suggest that Partition was Jinnah’s fault.

In their telling, the man who had once been hailed by Sarojini Naidu as the ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity was blameless: it was Hindu illiberalism, and Gandhiji’s use of Hindu religious concepts to stir the masses, that led Jinnah to demand a separate country.

Dear Amit Shah, stop distorting history to explain your failures today: Shashi Tharoor